Matt Bilton's return to Maryborough is a sign of the Magpies' improvement on and off the field, according to coach Ben Lavars.
For much of this decade the Magpies' plight hasn't been helped by the loss of young talent to neighbouring Maryborough Castlemaine District Football League clubs.
The tide has turned slightly, with the classy Bilton returning to Maryborough from Carisbrook after winning two league best and fairest awards and two premierships.
"We had a good chat to Matt last year about coming back, but he wasn't ready to come back and he had queries about where the club was heading,'' Lavars said.
"We'd lost a lot of people, a lot of guys weren't committing and he didn't want to come on board if it was going to be the same that it had been the previous few years.
"Having the year we had last year, and the recruiting we've done this year, has shown we're improving.
"Matt's keen to come back and challenge himself at Bendigo league level again. We welcome him back with open arms."
A product of the Magpies, Bilton left the club at the end of 2010 and played two years in the Ballarat league with East Point where he played inter-league footy.
He then went to Carisbrook where he won the Berry Powell Medal twice - in 2013 and 2018 - and was a key member of two premiership sides with the Redbacks in 2017 and 2018.
he 29-year-old plays through the midfield and forward. He kicked 129 goals over his final three seasons with Carisbrook.
"I want to play at the higher level again and a lot of my mates are still at the club,'' Bilton said.
"The vibe around the club is really positive and training has been really good."
Bilton's signing comes on the back of former Essendon, Western Bulldogs and Geelong forward Stewart Crameri returning to his home club.
The Pies have also signed VFL-experienced duo Lachlan Butler and Ashley Humphrey.
"Stewie Crameri has been on the training track a fair bit and he's been great for the club,'' Bilton said.
"You can tell he's played at a higher level."
Maryborough’s first practice match is against MCDFNL club Harcourt on March 23.
Maryborough will also play in the North Bendigo pre-season tournament on March 29-31 alongside the hosts, Bears Lagoon-Serpentine (Loddon Valley), Swan Hill (Central Murray), Harcourt (Maryborough-Castlemaine District), Horsham Demons (Wimmera) and Charlton (North Central).
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.